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Sustainable Development of Non-aqueous Rheology Modifiers for the Personal Care Industry

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Matthew Davidson
    Prof Karen Edler
    Prof Janet Scott
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath focuses on developing new molecules, materials, processes and systems from the lab right through to industrial application, with an emphasis on practical sustainability. We train scientists and engineers to work together with industry to meet the needs of current and future generations. For more information on the CSCT see

All PhD students in the Centre will have the opportunity to take part in an extensive training programme including public engagement, sustainable technology, clean technology, design of experiments, patents and entrepreneurship training sessions. Students will also have the opportunity to take part in Student Symposia, the CSCT Summer Showcase and public engagement opportunities such as the popular Festival of Nature.

We are now accepting applications to work with our industrial partner, Scott Bader, on this exciting PhD project. For more information on Scott Bader see

The term Personal Care Product is a blanket term used to describe items used in cosmetic and hygienic consumer products. Examples include shampoo, moisturiser, lipstick, makeup, sun screen, tooth paste etc. Polymeric microbeads in rinse-off products have attracted a lot of negative attention in recent years due to their pervasion into waterways and ingestion by marine life. A number of countries have subsequently banned the manufacture and sale of microbead-containing rinse-off cosmetics (UK since 1st October 2018) and many of the larger personal care companies have since phased out the use of microbeads in their products.

Another source of oil-based, and often non-biodegradable, polymers in personal care products are rheology modifiers – materials added to modulate viscosity and flow properties of a product. Recently the EU has proposed a restriction on microplastics entering the environment and, whilst this legislation would not cover the types of polymers that we use as rheology modifiers, it is very likely that the regulations will evolve to encompass these in the not-too-distant future and Scott-Bader and our customers need to be prepared.

We envisage rheology modifiers that are both bioderived in origin and biodegradable in the waste stream as next generation products for the personal care industry. The products must be sustainably sourced, efficient in application and suitable for their intended market(s). Commercially available options include natural waxes, polysaccharides and modified fatty acids, however they lack the efficiency and speed of thickening demanded by our customer(s) and there is a captive market for next generation products.

The PhD project would include: synthesis and molecular characterisation of new bioderived rheology modifiers; evaluation of the effect of varying molecular weight on viscosity and flow properties as well as control of molecular weight during synthesis; (for polymeric rheology modifiers) testing of the rheological properties of the novel materials, first in simple systems and then in conjunction with typical formulation ingredients; characterisation of the structures formed in solutions, thickened liquids and gels containing these rheology modifiers, including, where appropriate scattering studies. Thus, this project allows development of a range of skills from synthesis to physicochemical characterisation, while focusing on a potentially new class of sustainable formulation ingredients. The PhD student will have opportunities to work both at the University of Bath and with the industrial partner, Scott-Bader, in their well-equipped facilities.

This project aims to make personal care products and the ingredients they are made of more sustainable for the environment. It will investigate rheology modifiers that are both bioderived in origin and biodegradable in the waste stream. Besides being sustainably sourced, these products will have to be efficient in application and suitable for their intended market(s).

We invite applications from Science and Engineering graduates who have, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class degree and have a strong interest in Sustainable Chemical Technologies.

Informal enquiries about the research project should be directed to Prof Matthew Davidson, [Email Address Removed].

Enquiries about the application process should be sent to [Email Address Removed].

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemistry:

On the application form, please ensure that you quote CSCT in the Finance section and the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 30 September 2019.

Funding Notes

UK and EU citizens applying for this project will be considered for a studentship covering UK/EU tuition fees and maintenance in line with the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 in 2019/20) for a period of up to 3.5 years.

Candidates who are classed as Overseas for tuition fee purposes are unfortunately not eligible for funding.

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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